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Qantas has long worked to reduce its environmental footprint. Globally, 380 million metric tons of plastic is created each year, 75% of which ends up in landfills. Global Citizen campaigns on renewable energy, removing single-use plastic, and reducing global warming. You can take action here.  

Qantas has successfully flown the world’s first waste-free commercial flight.

Passengers on the Australia-based airline's flight from Sydney to Adelaide on Wednesday used food containers made from biodegradable sugarcane pulp and fully compostable paper cups, napkins, and cutlery. In total, upwards of 1,000 single-use plastic products were replaced with green options or discarded from the flight.

Andrew David, CEO of Qantas Domestic Australia, said the flight typically sends 34 kilograms of waste to landfill.

"We want to give customers the same level of service they currently enjoy, but without the amount of waste that comes with it," David stated. "This flight is about testing our products, refining the waste process, and getting feedback from our customers."

The flight’s biodegradable items will be turned into compost and distributed throughout farms nationwide. Any remaining paper, glass, and aluminum packaging will be reused or recycled into new goods, while non-recyclable plastics will be converted into a viable alternative to fossil fuels known as PEF.

Environmentally friendly packaging company BioPak was behind the flight’s compostable products.

"We are delighted to team up with Qantas in what is an unprecedented step forward in fighting the war on waste," says CEO Gary Smith. "This is the most ambitious waste reduction target of any major airline globally, and we are truly excited to be at the forefront in providing state-of-the-art, eco-friendly products that solve the impending issue of single-use plastics."

While Smith and David admit switching to biodegradable products can be costly, David was adamant the price would be consumed by Qantas and not transferred to customers.

The flight marks a significant milepost for the airline’s ambitious waste-reduction project.

In February, Qantas pledged to remove 75% of general waste by the end of 2021 and cut 100 million single-use plastic products before 2020. The initiative will see 45 million plastic cups, 30 million cutlery sets, 21 million coffee cups, and 4 million headrest covers replaced with sustainable alternatives.

The aviation industry makes up 3% of Australia’s total carbon emissions. Qantas alone is responsible for generating 13,000 tons of landfill every year, a figure equal to "80 fully-laden Boeing 747 jumbo jets."

Beyond introducing the waste reduction target, Qantas last year flew the first biofuel flight between Australia and the United States, saving 18,000 kilograms in carbon emissions. As of mid-2019, the airline will also begin offering frequent flyer points for each dollar passengers spend offsetting their flight emissions.


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